When Storms Come

Hurricane Isaac

On Sunday, we studied the reassuring words of the prophet Isaiah, “God will be the stability of your time” (33:6).  It’s a hard thing to believe, living in a world that feels like it is spinning and spinning and spinning out of control.  But that’s just the point.  The world will not provide us the stability that we need- ever. God will.

Seeing all the coverage from Hurricane Isaac has brought this point home for me.   I’m betting that many people on the Gulf coast thought that last week was stressful- until they fell into this week.  Families evacuating, plans changing, rains falling and a whole mess of issues that weren’t even there a week ago.  All of that with a storm that’s literally spinning and spinning and spinning above and around them!

Whether we face extreme weather, extreme stress, or just the difficulties of daily life, it is critical that we reconnect to our source of stability.  We do this through intentional practices of devotion to God.  We stop.  We are still.  We pray.  We read scripture, asking for God’s revelation by the power of the Holy Spirit.  If we let go of our grasp on God, we lose our stability, our bearings and anything that kept us connected to the life that really is life (see 1 Tim 6:18-19).  Pray diligently, spend time with God.  Hold on tight to Lord, the stability of your time. After all…

When storms come- and they always do- God will be the stability of your time.

When storms refuse to pass over- sitting on top of you- God will be the stability of your time.

When the storm finally leaves and you’re forced to pick up the pieces- God will be the stability of your time.

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

 

Jump In

On Sunday, Dennis preached about one of the more amusing statements in the Bible.  In Acts 26, the Apostle Paul is told by an unbeliever that “Too much learning is driving you insane!”  We remembered, as we kicked off the fall worship and Sunday school schedule, that we are servants of Jesus Christ and students of God’s word.  As students, we are called to read, to pray, to study- even (gasp!) to meditate on God’s word as it directs our discipleship. It’s true: the more we know about God, the more we are able to fully love God and to live as God would have us.

…and we want to learn more about God, right?  Or do we want to want to learn more about God?  Where do we start?  What is to be done with our fear of inadequacy?  How will other people see us? How do we get involved anyway?

We jump in.

I’m reminded of the church’s family retreat last April.  In the early morning hours at Camp Buc, Jennifer Walker (who is much bolder than I) and about ten children prepared to jump into the lake for a “polar bear swim.”  I, too, was peer-pressured into making the leap.  As we stood on the edge of the dock, I worried.  I fretted. I stressed.  I pled with the others to stop.  At the count of three, though, I jumped in… in spite of my fears.

Guess what?  It was as cold as I’d feard.  Guess what else?  I didn’t even think about it.  It turns out that a few of our young swimmers were so cold that they kind of froze up when they hit the water. I was the farthest person from the ladder, which meant that, as cold as I was, I stayed in- treading water and helping nudge the littler kids toward where they needed to be.  I waited in the water until their fingers got feeling again and made sure they could paddle their way out.

I could not have done that if I were still standing on the dock- if I had let my fears decide my actions.

Without a community of believers, we do not learn about God in the best way that we can, and we are not there for others as they try to live their faith.  If I hadn’t been pressured to jump off the dock, I am sure that I wouldn’t have.  If I had not jumped in, I wouldn’t have been able to be there for those who needed my help.

Jump in.  I dare you to.  Give Sunday school a try- 9:40 every Sunday morning.  Come to our Wednesday night program as it starts up September 12th.   Read your Bible- ask a friend to do it with you.  Just jump in.

 

 

Back to School

James, Austin and Jackson are all ready for the first day of Kindergarten!

Whether we’re ready or not, public schools in Anderson start back next Tuesday, with private schools not far behind.  The college kids are either gone already or leaving this week.  The stores are filled with everything you do or don’t need.

In our weariness, and in our excitement; in honor of those continuing with school, and those just beginning; let us hear the words of Holy Scripture.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.* 5You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem* on your forehead, 9and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6.4-9)

Remember, when it’s the night before going to school, and you’re picking out clothes and making sure the backpack’s packed…

Jesus will be with you.

When you’re waking up and starting the day…

Jesus will be with you.

When you meet new teachers and new friends…

Jesus will be with you.

When you’re trying out the new routine…

Jesus will be with you.

When you’re telling your family about the first day…

Jesus will be with you.

When I’m praying at night and thanking God for all of your blessings…

Jesus will be with you.

When the alarm sounds the next morning to do it all again…

Jesus will be with you.

You’re welcome to join us tonight at 5:30 for a special dinner and service of the “Blessing of the Backpacks.” Families with children in school, youth and teachers are encouraged to attend.

Hypocrites

“The human heart has so many crannies where vanity hides, so many holes where falsehood lurks, is so decked out with deceiving hypocrisy, that it often dupes itself.”   –John Calvin

In the last few weeks, I keep hearing the word hypocrite tossed around.  It’s everywhere on TV- in the news especially.  One group is calling another hypocrites while the others are calling that group hypocrites back.  I’ve even see that kind of language slipping into conversations around our community and our church.

Whenever I hear the word hypocrite peppering speech, it reminds me of a story from scripture that hits me way too close to home: Luke, 18:9-14.  It’s the story of the Pharisee who prays, “Thanks, God, that I’m not like that tax collector.”  This story is hard because I know myself; I know who I am.  I know who I would have been in that story.  I’m a Pharisee- and a hypocrite.  You may be one too. If I’m not careful, I get to thinking like this: “I love Jesus and I love the church.  I work towards its goals and try to maintain some semblance of righteousness.   I’m trying and sometimes I’m succeeding.  That’s gotta be better than some people…” 

 …and there it is.  Suddenly, I’ve gone from holding a sleeping inner Pharisee to shaking, waking and feeding my inner Pharisee.  Having an inner Pharisee, I think, is like owning a Gremlin… ‘Don’t get them wet, and never, ever feed them after midnight.’  Once you feed your inner Pharisee, it’s got a life of its own and you fall into Pharisaic thinking and speaking.  “How can they think like that? Do that? Support that candidate? Boycott that restaurant? Talk that way? Who do they think they are?” Despite the overwhelming grace that I know has been extended to me, there is so often the tendency for me be so very proud.

The good news is that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even hypocrites. He said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick” (Luke 5:31).

I’m a hypocrite.  I’m betting you are too.  Wherever two or more of us are gathered in Christ’s name, he is with us- and we are the church.  The hard part is that sometimes being the church means acknowledging who we really are- even when we’re ashamed.  We’re the sick in need of a doctor.  We’re the Pharisees. We’re the ones acting like hypocrites, even while we wish we weren’t.  We’re the people struggling together to live as God would have us, even when it is hard (and it usually is).  My church, for one, isn’t full of hypocrites.  We, too, have space for more.  I’ll save you a seat- right next to mine.